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A timid British Army officer has quit and burns his last day summons to a war in Egypt. Calling him a coward, his girl friend and 3 officer friends give him a white feather. In redemption, he shadows his friends in war to save their lives.
C. Aubrey Smith
Set in 1884 Sudan, this fifth film to be adapted from the A.E.W. Mason novel follows a British officer who resigns his post right before his regiment ships out to battle the rebels. Perceiving his resignation as cowardice, his friends and fiancée give him four white feathers, the symbol of cowardice, but little do they know he's actually going undercover and plans to redeem his honor.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This story has been made into films of the same title at least 6 times as far back as a silent film in 1915 See more »
When the British soldiers, led by Lt. Durrance, are chasing the sniper in the village, one of the British soldiers shoots two rounds in rapid succession at the fleeing sniper, which is impossible with the Martini-Henry rifles with which they were armed. Martini-Henrys are single-shot rifles. See more »
By 1884 over a quarter of the earth's surface had been conquered by the British Army. There was no greater honor for a young man than to fight for Queen and Country. Those that refused the call to arms brought shame and humiliation on their friends and families...
The Symbol of their disgrace was the white feather of cowardice...
See more »
After being rated R by the MPAA the film was cut for a more commercial PG-13 certification. See more »
"Four Feathers" reminded me of "Dances With Wolves," a beautiful try at PC reinterpretation of a soldier's role in an imperialistic war.
While I haven't read the original novel or have seen any of the previous five filmed versions of the story and my knowledge of the history of this period is pretty much formed by movies and "Masterpiece Theatre," this is the first one done by someone born in a former British colony, director Shekhar Kapur, so I was curious to see how the natives were treated (well, more like the Pawnee than the Lakota in "Wolves").
This version also carries today's symbolic weight of Western soldiers against Muslim warriors, especially as the enemy is identified as the Mahdi -- who Osama Bin Lama proclaimed as the last glory of Islam that he aspired to replicate.
This new interpretation has Heath Ledger refusing to fight in the Sudan not because of the cowardice symbolized by the titular feathers but more in the spirit of Country Joe McDonald's view of the Viet Nam War.
I got lost a few times in the geography and rescue choreography and found Djimon Hounsou a noble African with no motivation or reason for being there whatsoever.
However, the cinematography is gorgeous and will all be lost in video. Particularly thrilling are the battle scenes, which rate up there with "Barry Lyndon." I was especially impressed that Kapur didn't keep repeating the same sight lines, as most show-off directors do about shots that must have taken hours to set up.
While crossing and re-crossing the sands didn't make a lot of sense with little explanation as to survival, the treks and fights there were lovely.
And heck, I'm a fan of the three leads, Ledger (who looks great even in a fright wig), Wes Bentley and Kate Hudson (who mostly gets to dress up and look pretty), so I just sat back and enjoyed an old-fashioned big-screen Hollywood adventure (despite the endless chatter from the row of old ladies behind me).
(originally written 9/21/2002)
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